A chemically active “sperm-catcher” revisited
So, assuming we all agree that the act of creation is miraculous, worthy of our respect and admiration, can we begin to consider that male domination may not be a “God-given” tenet of our cultural dynamics? That the spear, bullet and nuclear weapon may not mirror our basic nature but perhaps be a departure from it, even a perversion?
Can we posit that our genetic underpinnings are in fact much closer to precepts such as cooperation (versus competition and “might makes right”) and peace (versus aggression and war)?
The fact that the egg is a chemically active “sperm-catcher” has been reported several times since the early 1990’s.
Now that the discrepancy between experiment and interpretation is being brought out into the open, the professional literature seems to be coming around–although a recent issue of the biology journal Cell Differentiation and Development placed on its cover a Prince Charming sperm delivering a wake-up kiss to a long-eyelashed Sleeping Beauty egg. As for the popular press, Gilbert and Martin cite the same recent example as particularly egregious: an article titled Sperm Wars that appeared as a cover story in a national science magazine whose name you’d recognize in a minute, which referred to the sperm cell as a formidable .00024-inch weapon, tipped with a chemical warhead (see DISCOVER, July 1991).
In the search for potential organizing effects of chemosensory stimuli it is beneficial to keep in mind our new understanding about odor perception. Previously it had been thought that odor was perceived in a manner similar to color; a small number of receptors would yield different perceptions depending upon the proportion of receptors stimulated by a given odorant. It is now believed, however, that odor perception is more akin to the immune system workings where multitudes of receptors are each uniquely responsive to chemical structures (Bartoshuk and Beauchamp, 1994; Buck and Axel, 1991). Moreover, these receptor proteins are chemically and structurally similar to those that bind neurotransmitters and hormones (Buck and Axel, 1991). Thus, the immunological forces spoken of under the heading of “The Inner World,” such as those associated with MHC, can interact with the stimuli to which we now attend. With appropriate feed-back mechanisms, one might expect social-environmental sensory stimuli to also modify sensory receptors.